Breaking news...

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Sweat Smell of Success

Apologies to everyone who was in the Moor House yesterday afternoon. Terrible typo in the Retreats Catalogue.

That was supposed to be a day for "Aspiring Leaders." Not "Perspiring Leaders." Totally different retreat.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Husborne Crawley Sexagesima Massacre

No idea what that was all about. Drayton Parslow came round earlier and challenged us to a paintball contest.  Told me he was only bringing the men from the Bogwulf Baptists.

So I put out the fourth XI. Last I heard, Drayton was tied to a tree and being pelted with onions.

Next time, he really needs to put Marjory in the team. I saw her chase a squad of Royal Marines out of Bozeat Woods once, armed only with a potato peeler.

Drayton Parslow's All-Masculine Sermon

And after that rousing last chorus of "Onward Christian Soldiers", we turn back to our text - "Put on the Full Armour of God."

Paul's use of this extended metaphor reminds us that there is nothing wimpy, effeminate or just plain womanly about the Christian life. It is not about humility, meekness or forgiveness - as President Trump has so plainly shown. No, it is about strength, manliness and a general whiff of the right kind of locker-room sweat and testosterone.

Football, eh? I always wondered whether to support Manchester Rovers or Arsenal City. But eventually, as a young man growing in the faith, I realised that the only club worth supporting was Millwall.  In many ways, the fans of Millwall in the 1970s and 80s were everything that the Christian church should be - small in numbers, beleagured, but murderously aggressive.  As St Paul so elegantly paraphrased in 2 Corinthians 11: "No-one likes us. We don't care."

And going to the pub. Now there's an activity for a proper bloke. I may not drink beer, and after a fourth pint of Cola I may find that I am starting to suffer from the kind of bloating that keeps me awake praising through the night watches. But there's no better place to be - enjoying the manly banter and a few games of pool.


So, brothers and sisters - but mostly brothers - let us go out into the world to tread weaklings under foot, wrestle with badgers, ride at high speed down narrow roads on housing estates.  And in everything we do - let us ask "what would Jesus do?" And then be a bit tougher than that.



This evening's bring-and-share tea has been superceded. I have challenged the Beaker Folk to a paintball competition in their Orchard. Ladies will of course not be required to take part. However if they could be brewing up some particularly strong beverage for the refreshment of the heroes afterwards - some Yorkshire tea, perhaps.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Search for the Hero

Brothers and Sisters! You may find the following quite stressful, and in places needing high degrees of spiritual wisdom and intellect.  So it may be better if the Sisters who read this blog ask their husbands, fathers or pastors to explain it to them later.

The book "Why Men Hate Going to Church" has been very clear on the importance of the need that a church leader should be a "hero". To quote:
So it is my godly duty to be the sort of hero that a hero-worshipper might want to worship.  Not in the sense that I am taking away his worship of God. Except maybe a little bit.

But, brothers (I presume you will keep these doubts from your dependent females) what was I to do? For I am a man in his fifties with no real musculature, no real attraction, no handsome profile.

So in order to make myself the sort of pastor that a hero worshipper might worship as a hero, I took myself off for a five-hour session at the gym.

The doctor reckons it is not a heart attack. Merely a spasm in a chest muscle caused by too many "reps" on the bench press. Being a hero is a painful calling.  But I am ready for the call.

Holding Hands in a Circle Singing "Bind us Together" Group

A strange morning here at Bogwulf Funambulist Baptist Chapel.

I had heard terrible stories of the people whom the soi-disant Archdruid, in her feminised pagan way, had caused to hold hands in a circle in worship and sometimes even caused to sing "Bind us Together".

This sort of thing must cause terrible damage to manly men - especially those manly men who are not quite manly enough to refuse, and nowhere near manly enough simply to put with it while adopting a stiff upper lip.

Therefore I advertised a morning workshop for any who would like to discuss this experience, how terrible it is, and how they felt manipulated into a touchy-feely, emasculated form of worship like this. Then I planned to pray for deliverance from this abomination for all the men concerned.

Oddly, of the nine people who turned up at the session, seven were women. In the circumstances, I took the two men away to the study in the manse, and left Marjory to lead the women.

It turned out that both the men had quite enjoyed the experience. Although both felt a bit guilty at the way they had ensured they held hands with the most attractive women in the group.  I assured them this probably wasn't a sin, but prayed that they had not committed adultery in their hearts.

Marjory has just popped in to tell me that the women in the group are currently throwing stones at a cardboard cut-out of the Archdruid, but she reckons they will have got over the whole nasty affair by lunchtime.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

God Loves Men Who Hate Going to Church

Once again I met Archdruid Eileen today. She was gloating about the vote by the clergy in the Church of England to reject the bishops' report on suppressing ungodliness. And I told her I was concerned that this sort of behaviour was reducing the manliness of the Church of England - if, indeed, it has any left.

Eileen referred me to a book called "Why Men Hate Going to Church", which is apparently being critiqued by a friend of hers on Twitter.

A great book, and one that has inspired me to turn the ethos of the Funambulist Baptist Church to ensure we attract more men.  Doing a quick nose-count of last Sunday's service, for instance, I believe we had 29 women and 12 men at church: roughly a 3:2 ratio.  My ambition for the Funambulist Baptists is that, over the next twelve months, we aim for a 1:1 ratio between men and women.

To that end, I am introducing some men-friendly rules. Although not in a "living by the Law" way - strictly in a "godly behaviour" way.  From now on, men are forbidden from shaving. We shall be more manly within the week.

The 57 Wasted Minutes of an Interview

Been interviewing for a role in the Beaker Bazaar.

And you know how it is. On electronic paper, the CV's great. Every box ticked. Every requirement met. So you bring them in, anxious to meet the genius who meets every one of the 94 criteria of the perfect Beaker shop assistant.

And three minutes in you know this will all be wrong. And maybe it's them or maybe it's you, but this ain't gonna work.

But you're booked for an hour. And you're a human being, and so are they. And you can't just chuck them out after three minutes. So you spend 57 more minutes asking questions that don't matter because you're not listening.

Which means that, in order to be nice, you've wasted 57 minutes of their time, and 57 minutes of your own. Because you know you couldn't be that swine who would throw them out after three minutes.

Which is why the Beaker interview room has a trapdoor under the interviewee's chair. Saves 57 minutes of everyone's time. And you don't have to look them in the eye.

A Warning from Noah's Ark

Just struck me there's another interpretation of the end of the story of Noah's Ark.

If it's raining and you don't see a rainbow in the sky - it may be time to build an ark....

A Time to Laugh, not a Time to Cry

It was miserable yesterday.  It's pretty overcast today. The daffs still ain't out properly and it's still 10 months to Xmas.

So I'm calling a Code 45. As a reminder:
Code 45 is the regulation that demands that all Beaker People adopt shiny, happy faces and a far-away look in their eyes. Everyone is under strict instructions, at all possible opportunities, to count their blessings. Everybody has to look like they've been burning lavender oil while listening to Enya's Shepherd Moons.
It's just like being at one of those Pentecostal churches that call a random person up the front and ask what good things have happened this week, and when they say they've lost their job, their partner has left them and the dog was run over by a steam roller. And everybody goes, it's all God's will. Give thanks in all circumstances.

So to be clear - from now on in, if anyone is in any way looking miserable, it's an official Beaker sin. Get out there and be happy.

Bishop Christopher Presses the Button

Excitement at Westminster as to which bishop rebelled against the Bishops' paper is dispelled as the Bishop of Coventry fesses up. He pressed the wrong button.

I'm  bit worried about the confusion over the voting process that +Christopher blames for his mistake. As this implies he's spent his whole career in Synod voting the wrong way on things.

Still, good news for the bishop as he receives  a job offer. Donald Trump has asked if +Christopher would like to look after the case with the nuclear codes.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Sticking to Biblical Standards in Marriage

Drayton Parslow telling me the Church of England bishops are right to be sticking up for a "biblical view of marriage."

To be fair to Marjorie Parslow, she's getting old in years and not likely to have any more children.  So I joked to Drayton he might want to be thinking about a concubine.

He took the idea more seriously than I thought.  Thought it would brighten up the place and was a good way to bring some interest to a bed. Albeit, inclined to roam. Which confused me. This isn't the sort of open attitude I expect from our Drayton.

Just got home and realised. He thought I meant celandine.

Funeral for a Sparrow Eaten by "Grendel" the Community Cat

Hymn: Owl Lovely on the Mountains

Reading: "Not a sparrow drops to the ground..."

Archdruid: And how true that reading was. Although it was not God alone who noticed the sparrow fall to the ground on this occasion. Grendel noticed as well. And it did not end up well.  Especially for Hnaef who had to put the poor little thing out of its misery with his hiking boots.

All: Brave of him.

Archdruid: And so we lay this unfortunate to rest....

Hnaef: Actually, we don't. I left it laying around while I went off to clean my boots and... Grendel...

All: Meh.

Archdruid: And so we lay this handful of feathers to rest, in sure and certain hope that sparrows get some kind of afterlife. I mean obviously I wouldn't want to prejudge. It's not like sparrows can be good or bad. And who could imagine sparrows having a little feathery saviour?

The ghost of Sydney Carter: Actually, I could. In fact, while I've been kicking my spiritual heels, I've written a little song about it. Shall I play it?

All: No!

Archdruid: And we reflect the irony that today is Valentine's Day. When the birds are said to find their mates for the year. Instead of which this sparrow had a meeting with destiny and a vicious black cat. Makes you think maybe God's not so nice after all, dunnit?

All: Or maybe the whole "noticing sparrows" thing was a bit metaphorical? 

Archdruid: Whatever. OK. We've said the sad stuff. Chicken casserole for tea.

Hymn: "Close to You"

And God Said.....

It's the early 6th century BC. You're hundreds of miles from home. You and your family have been dragged from your home country by the invading army who have destroyed Jerusalem, tortured and/or murdered your royal family and desecrated your places of worship - both the temple where you should have been worshipping, and the other, local places where you maybe shouldn't. Children have been slaughtered. A people has been ravaged and exported.

And you're in a country whose gods are everywhere. Their boast is that their gods are bigger than everyone else's. After all, they won. They get to choose the gods - just as their gods chose them. You thought your god was so mighty? Well, go back down to Jerusalem, if they'll let you - and see what's happened to the temple. And the gods of these people are a crazy bunch. In their creation story the mother of the gods got killed by her children, cut up and turned into the earth and the heavens. Mind you, let's face it - the only story you've got about how the world began involves a man, a woman and a talking snake with legs.


And you sit down and write. And the first thing you write is "In the beginning, God created the earth..." but the word you use for God literally means "Gods". And yet the sense of the passage is clearly in the singular. Maybe you're saying something about the power and majesty of your God - even with all the evidence of his weakness around you.

And you go on - "And God said let there be light. And there was light." And not just the light - the world, the atmosphere, the seas, the animals, and human beings - all on their chosen day, all in their carefully selected order. And the two refrains repeat...
"And God said..." "...and it was good". 
This is a parody of their creation myth. And it's a challenge to it. This God is not to be compared to the scruffy random gods who create a universe through family squabbles. This is a God who, when he says it - it happens. Who really is in control. This is a God who creates a world that can be trusted to be coherent, consistent, understandable - and above all - good.

This is not a scientific treatise. This is an act of defiance. It's a piece of intellectual, religious and philosophical rebellion. These are words of liberation. It's an act of trust in God who created everything, has power over everything, and holds everything in its place. So surely he's going to pull you through this as well. Who can "sing a song in a strange land", as it says it Psalm 137? You can. And you can share it with your friends as you wait out your days in exile. And you can pass it on to your children's children, as age after age they sing the song "How Long, O Lord"?

Around 700 years later, a man called John is looking for the words to express the amazing things that the Church has seen. And he looks at this passage and he sees the creative power of God's word, and he realises. And he writes - "In the beginning... was the Word." And he says - we saw the God who created the heavens and earth. He was here among us.

And 2000 years after that, some people who can't cope with logic and science decide it's God's manual for how to make a world.

But for the rest of us, it's not that.  It's the story of a God who makes a world that's ordered; that's functional; that's consistent; that's good; that's the story of a faith and a life worth living.





Feast of Fretting Over Whom We Might be Offending

Today is the year's first Feast of Fretting Over Whom we Might be Offending. When we want to celebrate something, but worry we might offend people. And just end up digging ourselves into bigger holes. Like Burton's prayer last Mothering Sunday for "all the men who can't be mothers and wouldn't want to be". Because he didn't want to leave anyone out.

So today we're celebrating Ss Cyril and Methodius. Who, by inventing a script in which to write Slavic languages, became the patron saints of American political resignations.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Beware of the God Shaped Hole

Can everybody take care. the thin place down by the holy well has collapsed under the weight of unreal expectations. Drogbert just fell into the God-shaped hole it left.

We've taped the area off but unfortunately we don't have any of that stripy tape the gas people and coppers use.  So it's surrounded by banners saying "Happy New Year." I'm not sure Drogbert is feeling particularly grateful.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Dionysian Rebels

Complaints from the Beaker Fertility Folk that it's too cold for their rites and can they please use the Moot House? To which the answer is an emphatic "no".

Disregarding the weather, they really ought to think about giving it all up at their age. If Marvin does his hip once more the A+E are going to issue him with a season ticket.

In the Greek olive groves, the Meneads would frolic through the night on red wine and then rip a bull to pieces and eat it raw to consume the energy of their god.

The Fertility Folk's idea of a big night now is Lemsip and a game of gin rummy.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Vada Who's Talking Now

Some clarification from Westcott on why the "Polari Evensong" was wrong.

“The difficulty here is that Polari isn’t a translation: it’s a transgression,” Canon Chivers said. “It’s not like saying ‘Let’s do liturgy in French.’ The point of Polari is it deliberately subverts. It’s code language. I understand how it originated, but in the context of liturgy, that can never work, because that’s not what worship is. It’s not about transgression, but about finding language within which all can find themselves, because it’s directed to God.”
Now you might say that God taking on human form is transgressive. You may think that writing the Good News in common not classical Greek is transgressive. Certainly Thomas Hardy didn't approve. Either way this isn't filling me with hope for Hnaef's "Posh Evensong" or Burton's "Cockney Vespers", I'll be honest. But the Canon continues...
The concept of the service was “far too horizontal. The question here is: where is the verticality in this?"
Did somebody mention speaking in code?

The trouble with a Polari service  is that Polari is dated. It belongs to an outdated subculture. Nobody really speaks it anymore. Frankly you might as well use the ASB.

And if you want to discuss horizontality with Julian and Sandy, you  probably better zoosh your riah and put sme slap on your eek.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Real Fight Was Just Lost

In case anyone hadn't noticed, I'm not a great fan of Jeremy Corbyn. In my opinion - and others are available - he's an incompetent, vote-losing waste of space. At a time when Labour should have got its act together - against Brexit, against austerity, against the erosion of civil liberties - they elected this bubble-dwelling hero of the megaphone. When they needed a united opposition to hold the Government to account, they asked a serial rebel without charisma or leadership skills to take it on.

And I know some say the terrorist-appeasing IRA fanboy is basically good at heart.

But even by his own standards of ineptitude, yesterday was amazing. After a vote in which he whipped the Parliamentary Labour Party to vote with the Government, he tweeted "Real fight starts now." 

Which is odd. I know that when I'm in a real fight I like to make sure I've got the best weapon available to me. Generally the old Slazenger V400. It's thirty years old, sure. But it's beautifully balanced. And you can tell the rozzers you're off for a quick net, if they ask why you're prowling the grounds in the evening looking for Burton Dasset.

But the point is - you need a decent weapon for a fight. And if you're leader of the Opposition in a parliamentary democracy, and the Government is pushing through a dubious vote with a thin majority - your vote would appear to be the weapon of choice. Some oratory saying that the Government has gone beyond its brief, is not going for the Brexit many people voted for, is ignoring the 48% who voted the other way, is embarked on a course of economic suicide - and you're going to vote against - that's surely how to conduct your fight. Give those who aren't that enamoured of either party something to believe in. Not this supine surrender, fearful of the UKIP challenge in the northern wastes (as seen from Holloway).

This is Spartacus, coming quietly and going back to the arena with no weapons while saying "real fight starts now." William Wallace saying "you're only gonna cut my favourite bits off while I'm half hanged, so I may as well not bother with the rebellion. Real fight starts now, by the way." Churchill saying he'll fight them on the beaches, then challenging Hitler to a sandcastle tournament.

Get off to Whitehall with your megaphone, Jeremy. Nip off to agree with Stop the War not to mention Assad. Go to a town hall and address your faithful under the dusty strip lights, while the darkness gathers outside. But don't forget - real fight starts now.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Religious Justification for Slavery

Now get me wrong. I think slavery is a thoroughly bad thing. Hope I'm not being too radical there. And I would like to stress that all cleaners in the Great House, and assistants in the Beaker Bazaar, are either "interns" or "volunteers".  Very different. Bigly.

But still, I was struck by the following tweet from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
See, there is a religious justification for slavery. More than one, really. And that's just in the Bible. But I'll just go with one:
‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.(Lev 25:44-46)

There you go. A religious justification for slavery. The Children of Israel are told they can buy slaves - or indeed capture slaves - from the nations around them. Israelites can also enter into bond servitude but you have to be nice to them and let them go at the Jubilee. But there's a religious justification. God said you could do it.

We really need to work harder at our exegesis, I reckon.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Worship in the Russian Tradition

The Standard reports that a Russian woman faces a three stretch for lighting her cigarette on a church candle.

In Russia this is an offence of disrespect of religion. Under the UK's equally Stalinist laws, she would not be facing gaol. But she could get a fine for breaching the Smoking Ban.

Meanwhile another Russian is facing punishment for playing Pokémon Go in church. In a meeting room at Westcott, the ordinands planning the next alternative evensong have the inspiration they've been praying for....

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Peak Daily Express

If you don't want to follow the link to the Express I'll summarize....

The Moon / Earth relationship is doomed. As the tidal effect of the Moon on the Earth brings the rotation of the Earth to a halt, the Moon will crash down,  obliterating all life.

Two minor caveats at the end of the story. First is that it won't happen for 6.5 bn years.

Second is that it won't happen at all. Because that will be 3 bn years after the Sun expands to be a red giant, burning both objects to crisps.

Maybe we can all relax, and worry about immigrants, house prices and the next  solar eclipse which will bring about the Second Coming.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Filling a Niche in the Church

News from the good people at St Mary's, Great Tremlett.

Years now, literally, they've had those six empty niches in the church. You know the sort I mean? They were built to hold the little statues of saints in the days before the Reformation. And then the saints were thrown out, leaving empty niches. Since when they've occasionally held flower vases or tea lights.

But the people at St Mary's wanted something more radical. They decided they were going to put statues back. But which ones? They needed people whose holiness, doctrinal rightness, personal sanctity and brilliant proclamation of the Gospel were beyond doubt.

No problem really. They've filled the niches with statues of the last six rectors. Revd Nathan must be happy.

Writes of the Church: February Letters

Once again the people of the Trim Valley make their views known.  Although we wonder why.

The Church of St Julian and St Sandy

Shock as a group of ordinands at Westcott lead a service written in Polari.

The BBC website notes that
Services in the Church of England are legally required to be conducted using the church's approved liturgy.
Which is going to come as a shock to ordinands in every Church of England theological college and training course in the land. Even as I write, up and down England, hazelnuts are being squirreled away under sofas; clown costumes burnt at the dead of night; scripture readings from the Qur'an, the Wee Worship Book, the Adi Granth, and Coldplay are being reconsidered. Entire services in mime are having Cranmer's liturgy retrofitted.

Meanwhile in Anglo Catholic vicarages, incumbents are reckoning that the Roman Rite is still gonna be OK.

I note that, as a result of the legalisation of homosexuality and of  the 1960s sketches by "Julian and Sandy", Polari has really been pretty much killed off for 50 years.

Which, I suppose, means it's cutting edge for Church of England liberals.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Groundhog Day / Imbolc / Candlemas

And so, as we grudgingly put away the Christmas bling after promising ourselves that Xmas lasts till Candlemas we discover that the Earless Beaker Bunny had eaten some of the tinsel. It is a really bad idea to allow bunnies to eat tinsel. Partly because it's not good for them.

And partly because if it does go through safely, all their currant-like droppings end up threaded like bizarre jewels on the less-than-savoury tinsel that comes out the other end. Do not try this with your own Beaker Bunny.

Beaker tradition says that, on this most Groundhog of days, if the Beaker Bunny can't see her ears the weather will be changeable for the next 15 years. This has never been proven wrong yet.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Norman Clegg's Day (b 1921)

Hymn: Something sentimental set to the theme tune.

Archdruid: We gather to celebrate the Nativity of Peter Sallis - or, to 8 generations of Last of the Summer Wine fans, Cleggy.

Clegg: Has it ever occurred to you that if ears were square they'd cut the pillows?

Archdruid: But, this being Summer Wine country, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.

Wesley Pegden: 'Ow do, lads!

Compo: I don't know why I wash me feet. They only go black again.

Nora: Oooh! Put some clothes on!

Sid: I never even touched that bus conductress...

Foggy: When I was out East, there were insects as big as the natives. Only little fellows, they were.

Mr Wainwright: Miss Partridge! We may be dead but we are still modern people - liberated from bourgeois oppression and religion. Hang on.... How am I here then?

Ritually Pushing the Wicker Man Downhill in a Wheelbarrow

Cleggy: Let us make amends to the Old Yorkshire God, Earnshaw.

All may cross their fingers, turn around and spit.

Foggy: There's no such thing as the Old Yorkshire Gods.

All flee the collapsing Moot House.